I’ve been wanting to get involved with Girls on the Run since finding out about the program a few years ago. At the time, there was no local chapter in the Tampa Bay area. Needless to say, I was really excited to find out at this year’s Gasparilla race expo that they’d started one in St. Pete!
According to the organization, “Girls on the Run® is a life-changing, experiential learning program for girls age eight to thirteen years old. The programs combine training for a 3.1 mile running event with self-esteem enhancing, uplifting workouts. The goals of the programs are to encourage positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development.” Their mission certainly hits home for me.
I got an email a few weeks ago looking for running buddies for the upcoming Miles for Moffitt 5k in Tampa and I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. A running buddy is someone who volunteers on race day to run the 5k with one of the girls to provide support and encouragement.
We arrived at the USF Campus at 7am to meet up with the group. I ran into two of the awesome Tampa Bay Lady Bloggers Meghan and Genna who were running the 5-miler.
I also ran into Meghan, one of our friends from our Monday night Running for Brews group.
At 7:30am they paired us with our run buddies. Megan and I’s Buddies were two fifth graders from an elementary school St. Pete. Were chatted for a few minutes then head to the start line.
My buddy was nervous, there was no doubt about it. She said she didn’t think there would be so many people there. I did my best to encourage her to do her best and not to think about anyone else. It was HER race after all.
I don’t think it helped calm any of the girl’s nerves that we crossed the start line just as the 17 minute 5k-ers were crossing the finish line in the other side of the street.
Along the course we ran and walked. We talked about her favorite extra curricular, dance.
At some point during the 5k she turned to me and said “I’m just not a runner.” I remembered something I read on Callie’s blog a few weeks ago. I told her “you know I heard to be a runner all you have to do is run, and that’s exactly what you’re doing.”
It’s amazing how these little life lessons can so easily inspire us to inspire others.
We finished the race in a little over an hour, as she ran to the finish line she finally cracked a smile.
It was so incredible to see the pride in these girls faces. I can’t imagine running a 5k when I was 11. I remember how scared I was to toe the start line of my first one when I was already in my 20s!
I’m really looking forward to volunteering with this organization again. It’s such a wonderful way to give back to the sport!